By Aftab Ahmad, New Age Islam
14 June 2014
There are many verses in the Quran which have proved difficult for the scholars and exegetes of Quran. Scholars have not been able to find the most agreeable interpretation of certain verses in the Quran. One is about the king Zul Qarnain. There are other verses as well that have perplexed the exegetes and Islamic scholars as they heavily differ with each other on their interpretation or meaning.
One such verse is Verse No. 5 of Surah As Sajdah. The verse reads as follows:
یدبر الامرمن السمائ الا الارض ثم یعرج الیہ فی یوم کان مقدارہ، الف سنتہ مما تعدونؔ
From the translations by some prominent translators and exegetes of the Quran, it can be made out that they were not able to grasp the real meaning of this verse. And because of that they produced a literal translation without understanding the meaning. Due to this, their translations differ from each other without giving the readers a hint of what is meant. Here are some of the translations by eminent scholars of the Quran:
He governs all that exists, from the celestial space to the earth; and in the end all shall ascend unto Him [for judgment] on a Day the length whereof will be [like] a thousand years of your reckoning.
He directeth the ordinance from the heaven unto the earth; then it ascendeth unto Him in a Day, whereof the measure is a thousand years of that ye reckon.
He rules (all) affairs from the heavens to the earth: in the end will (all affairs) go up to Him on a Day the space whereof will be (as) a thousand years of your reckoning.
Abul Ala Maududi
He administers the affairs of the world from the heavens to the earth, and the report of this administration ascends (to be presented) before Him in a Day whose length, according to your reckoning, is a thousand years.
M. Habib Shakir
He regulates the affair from the heaven to the earth; then shall it ascend to Him in a day the measure of which is a thousand years of what you count.
Sheikh Hassan Qaribullah
He directs the affair from heaven to earth. Then it will ascend to Him in one day, a day whose value is a thousand years by your reckoning.
John Arthur Arberry
He directs the affair from heaven to earth, then it goes up to Him in one day, whose measure is a thousand years of your counting.
From the translations presented above, a reader cannot make out the implied message particularly by the mention of the difference between heavenly and earthly measurement of time, that is, one day is equal to one thousand years.
The verse speaks of God’s ordinance or order that is sent down from heaven to the earth and the order will return to him in one day which is equal to man’s one thousand years.
It may be taken to mean that the Amr (order, message, and injunction) is sent down or revealed to the people of earth which then return to heaven (to God) in one thousand years. It may be inferred from the verse that every one thousand years God’s ordinance (law) rises from the earth. It may mean that God renews the order or system of the world every one thousand years. In the Quran, the word Amr does not necessarily mean a religious order or law but the whole system of governance based on justice and peace.
Amruhum Shura Baynahum
Their affairs are decided through mutual consultation
Another verses says
Lahul Khalq Wal Amr
It is He who creates and it is He who directs.
Thus, God creates the world and then send down his order or a set of orders (a whole system) on which the world is to be governed.
Therefore, when the verse says that He directs ordinance from heaven to the earth which returns to Him in every one thousand years, it may mean that He renews the system of world every thousand years. In this period he may resurrect a nation according to its behaviour or deeds or make some other scientific or political changes or revolutions take place. God sent Prophet Noah to guide his people and he lived among them for 950 years (almost one thousand years) and then destroyed them by the deluge. The series of Pharaohs also ruled Egypt for centuries and were destroyed finally when God sent down his ordinance to renew the world. Thus, God does not take action of the wrongdoings of a nation in a day but waits for the appointed time. At one occasion, God says that had it not been decided already, He would have taught the non-believers and oppressors a lesson immediately. In other words, God has set a time circle to revive the world both politically and spiritually. Reviving the system does not necessarily mean sending prophets to revive the spiritual state of humanity because prophets were not sent every one thousand years. They were sent down in close succession and many times more than one prophet existed on earth simultaneously. For example, Hadhrat Shuaib and Hadhrat Musa existed in the same time zone as Prophet Musa was the son-in-law of Hadhrat Shauaib and Hadhrat Ibrahim and Hadhrat Loth were professing their religions in the same period as Hadhrat Loth was the nephew of Hadhrat Ibrahim.
Therefore, Yudabbirul Amr cannot only mean sending down religious decree through prophets.
As golden principle of interpretation of Quran is that Quran can be best interpreted through itself, we can go through another verse of a similar import.
To God belongs the Unseen in the heavens and the earth. To Him the whole matter (amr) shall be returned; so serve Him, and put thy trust in Him. Thy Lord is not heedless of the things you do. (Hud: 121)
Here the sentence
و الیہ یر جع الامر
Points to the topic discussed in Surah As Sajdah, verse 5.
The point in this verse is further explained in another verse. Please go through it:
“And they demand of thee to hasten the chastisement! God will not fail His promise; and surely a day with thy Lord is as a thousand years of your counting.”(Al Hajj:47)
In the verse quoted above, God says to the prophet that they challenge you to bring to them the wrath of God of which you warn them, so tell them that God does not fail his promise. He will give them punishment for their deeds. But at the same time, the topic or chastisement is linked with God’s time circle of one thousand years. So though the non-believers may be in a haste to get the punishment, God is not as he knows that they cannot escape him. That’s why He will follow His own scheme of things.
From this point of view, if we study the history of humanity, we will find that major revolutionary or devastating events have taken place in every turn of millennium. If we go back to the ancient time, though we do not have a detailed record of history of the pre-historic times, if we go back to the age Before Christ (BC), we may find a wonderful explanation of the verses concerning one thousand years vs one day.
For example, if we look at major events that took place in and around 1000 BC, we will find that many big events took place around that time that changed the course of history and the world.
Hadhrat Daud (David) became the king and also prophet in 1006 BC. The Iron Age period started in 1000 BC and Hadhrat Dawood was a master ironsmith who could make weapons of war and tools of common use with iron. This may be called the beginning of the industrial progress.
In the same year, the Aryans entered Persia, modern day Iran. That was a major migration of people in history.
Similarly, the nation of Loth (Sodom and Gomorrah) were destroyed probably around 2000 BC.
In 3000 BC many revolutionary changes, discoveries and occurrences take place. Gold was first used in this millennium. This is also called the period of Bronze Age which brought a kind of revolution. This is also the time of emergence of Pharaohs as living gods who ruled across the millennium only to be destroyed by the end of the millennium, during the prophet hood of Hadhrat Musa.
On the religious level, Prophet Abraham is believed to be born around 1996 BC which is close to 2000 BC. Abraham’s prophet hood is one of the major milestones in the human history as after that humanity progressed on spiritual level and many people from his generations became prophets and brought revolutionary changes in the spiritual and religious arena.
In the modern age, the birth of Jesus Christ marked the beginning of the new age. The first millennium saw the emergence of Mahmood of Ghazni in Afghanistan, Iran and India. He invaded India in 1001 and made a beginning of Muslim rule that ran till the 18th century.
Around the same time, that is at the beginning of the second millennium, great Sufi Ali Hujweri called Data Bakhsh was born and started preaching Islam. He was the first Sufi in the sub continent who was instrumental in establishing the Chishti Sufi order that preached Islam. That is, God had arranged for both political and religious or spiritual spread of Islam through his Tadbbeer (scheme of things).
In the second millennium also, many big events happened that changed the course of history and the world order. In 2001, the biggest terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in the US changed the face of the world and many successive events after that tragically affected the Muslim world which continues to have a huge impact on the world politics, particularly on the Islamic world.
This is a brief record of political, industrial and scientific changes and revolutions that took place at the beginning of every new millennium hinting at God’s cycle of thousand years mentioned in the Quran on a couple occasions. Our exegetes could not see beyond the religious explanation of the verse whereas God has to look into political and scientific affairs of the world too. Aur Bhi Kam Hain Dunya Me Muhabbat Ke Siwa.
Aftab Ahmad is a columnist for New Age Islam. He has been studying the Holy Quran for some time.